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When you think about writing evergreen content, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is the topic. Everyone wants to write content with longevity, becoming a good resource readers can refer back to, or just something that is so honest and—dare I say—profound, that people will identify with it, and continue to share it. Those are good goals to have.
But writing evergreen content can be considered on a more granular level, using a few tactics that are pretty commonsensical, but easy to overlook. Keep these things in mind when writing not just blog posts, but static site content, and your content will be better able to stand the test of time.
One of my biggest pet peeves is walking up to a business only to find the door locked and a note that says, “Back in five minutes.” How long ago was the note actually posted? Two minutes? Ten? Do I wait to see if anyone comes back, or leave? What if I wait, but the person who left the note underestimated how long they’d be gone, and I end up waiting 15 minutes for their return? What if I decide to leave, and as soon as I walk away, they return? Either way, I’m the one who loses out in that scenario. Not a good way to gain or retain a customer.
What those signs should really say is, “Back at 5 p.m.” or whatever time that person expects to be back. It shows respect for customers’ time. The same is true when you’re writing content for your site. It doesn’t do your readers, users, or customers much good to read that your company was established two years ago. The minute you publish that, it’s already out of date, whether someone reads it the next day or six months later. Do you really want to have to update your copy every year? Or even every month, depending on what you’re talking about?
To keep that content evergreen, use exact statements of time. “The company was established in 2008.” If you want to get really specific, you can include a month. Heck, include a day if you’re really into specificity. By always using a specific time, it won’t matter if your visitors read the page a month after you publish it, or three years later, and it’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about updating on a regular basis.
There’s a time and place for current events in content. Creating a linkbait piece? Then go ahead and write, “Nine Branding Lessons we Can Learn From an Empty Chair.” I guarantee you, someone is thinking about those lessons right now. But if you want to write something with more staying power, leave the current events mentions out of it.
Keep in mind two exceptions to that rule. It’s fine to mention historical events everyone is familiar with. Those won’t change, and it’s a safe bet everyone will know what you’re talking about whether it’s the Civil War, The Great Depression, or any other major historical event. But temporary events or circumstances that will change are a no-no, unless you adhere to the first tip and mention specific time frames. Also, if you’re a press release writer, of course you’ll be referencing news and current events. Sometimes keeping content evergreen is just about commons sense.
Other than aiming for freshness, another good reason to lay off the current events is to avoid alienating searchers who land on your page. If your piece is optimized for “branding lessons,” and someone finds your post using that term, they may land there only to find not only is it an older piece, but it centers on an long-ago event. Maybe they’ll stick around and read it anyway. Or maybe they’ll bounce right out of there. You may think it shouldn’t matter because blog posts are usually published with dates on them, but Google doesn’t always display those in the SERPs. Don’t make people work too hard to enjoy or use your content. That’s no way to build an audience.
This rule is pretty similar to the last one, but has the potential to get even more obscure with the passage of time. Say you decide to make some sort of reference to a recording artist. If it’s Madonna, who’s been around forever, you might be able to get away with it. But draw a comparison to Lady Gaga, and what happens if she’s out of the spotlight next year after she wears one too many meat dresses? Do you even know what I’m talking about with that reference? Will people who possibly read this two years from now, know? Or will that just make this post seem dated, and me seem out of touch, not to mention insensitive to vegans?
Remember all those “Jersey Shore” posts that were popular a year or two ago? You know: “The Jersey Shore Guide to Marketing/Branding/Fill in the blank.” I’ll admit, they were somewhat entertaining at the time, but would you want to go back and read one now? Do you think you’d still get anything out of it? Do you think you could stand one more Snookie reference without becoming nauseated? (Oops, snuck one in there—sorry.)
I’m not saying you should never do this, just don’t make a habit of it. If you’re doing content development for the entertainment business, go for it. If your goal is linkbait, a pop-culture-laden post will probably serve you well. But if you want to create content that sticks around and becomes something people refer back to again and again, leave the hip references out and go for solid, fact-based content written in an interesting way. If you feel you have to rely on pop culture to make your content interesting, you have a bigger problem than whether it’s evergreen or not.
The next time you sit down to write a blog post, site page, article, infographic, or any other piece of content, remember these simple tips to help your content stay evergreen. Think about it this way: Would you rather be super popular for a couple of days with a clever, timely piece? Or do you want to build a name for yourself through your content as it’s visited and shared over a longer period of time? As always, before you create content, consider what your goal for it is. Any content—evergreen or otherwise—is only half as effective without purpose.